For the second straight game, the Nashville Predators were playing on a night that would determine the top spot in the Central Division.
Unlike the Thursday, they would not prevail.
In front of 17,212 at Bridgestone Arena, the Chicago Blackhawks came into Music City and knocked off the Predators by a score of 3-1. Marian Hossa registered two goals and goalie Scott Darling turned aside 32 of 33 Nashville shots en route to the victory.
Despite the loss, Pekka Rinne had a strong night between the pipes as well. His 28 saves weren’t enough though as he fell to 17-5-1 on the year.
“He’s played well for a while now,” Craig Smith said about his goaltender. “He’s kept us in games, we’ve just got to find a way to score.”
During a pretty evenly matched opening frame, Brandon Saad capitalized on an Eric Nystrom turnover to open the scoring.
“We gave them a little bit too much respect and played into their game a little bit,” Colin Wilson said. “They’re a fast team and we were turning the puck over a little too much.”
In the second period, Hossa would convert a beautiful Saad pass into an open net goal to make it 2-0, Hawks.
“The first two periods they got out of pretty easy,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “I think we just needed to get more action in their end and that means hounding the puck and staying in on the action. I think we did a better job of that in the third.”
That they did as Nashville came out buzzing and finally got one past Darling when Wilson snapped a shot from the half wall and bagged his sixth of the season.
“It was just a big win by Fish,” Wilson said about his tally. “Nobody was really coming to me so I was able to get a quick shot away.”
In the final minutes, with the extra attacker on, Mattias Ekholm made a nice move to get the puck around Hossa in the neutral zone. It got caught up in the snow along the boards, however, and the puck stayed behind while Ekholm skated forward, going right to a backchecking Hossa who slid it into the empty net.
“The game was fairly even, especially after the second,” Ellis said. “I think it was a pretty even game. But they capitalized on their chances and scored. We didn’t.”
His coach agreed.
“You’re going to look at tonight’s game and break down the stats,” Laviolette said. “The shots are the same, the chances are the same and the shots at the net are the same. But they got one more than we did.”
He’s right. The statistics he mentioned were basically a draw. Shots on goal were 33-31, Nashville and shots attempted were 52-51, Chicago. But the only category that matters is “goals for” and the Blackhawks took that one 3-1.
The Predators will continue their string of games against the Central Division when they fly to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. Prior to the season, the Avs were picked by most experts as a lock for the playoffs but haven’t lived up to the hype. They’re just 9-12-6 so far an possess the third worst defense in the West.
Puck drops at 8:00pm Central.
MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:16 remaining in regulation):
1. Brandon Saad (CHI)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Scott Darling (CHI)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Brandon Saad (CHI)
2. Scott Darling (CHI)
3. Colin Wilson (NSH)
Your December 6, 2014 installment of Five Minute Overtime:
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com